Smart sustainability begins with automation

Corporate Sustainability Leader at WSP in the Middle East, Daniel Gribbin, on recent global events and the acceleration of automation.

Automation, MEP and HVAC, Artificial intelligence

Never has resiliency and the way we work been more important than in these unprecedented times.

Recent changes to the way we work have spurred an acceleration in flexible working across industries we never dreamed imaginable.


By adapting to this new degree of normalcy in the wake of global events, our flexibility and efficiency have been fast-tracked in parallel with society’s vast population growth and the densification of our cities.

As such, we need to devise ways to ensure our infrastructure is more resilient to changing weather patterns and global mega events such as Covid-19 by finding ways to incorporate smart and sustainable technologies into our everyday lives.

These technologies will play a key role in automating processes and reducing human interaction in order to increase societal continuity.

They’ll also lend support in reducing environmental impacts, water use, carbon emissions, and waste minimisation, whilst also improving efficiencies in process and design, and driving a more sustainable way of life for both business and society as a whole.

We’ve seen automation come a long way in the last decade, mainly revolving around automating services, production lines, and smart service technology, and this has been further accelerated with recent global events.

The focus has shifted somewhat towards how we use these large pools of data to enable self-propelled processes which drive more informed conclusions.

Secondly, we need Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions applied to data in order to maximise the value of our data capital so we can adapt and make decisions that benefit the right outcomes.

READ: The story behind the guidelines that will shape UAE

The next step in the automation journey is incorporating these automations and conclusions into building design and infrastructure, which will bring about improved environmental outcomes while making sure that the buildings, assets, operations, and anything we do with technology has a positive impact – not just an efficiency gain to tick a box. 

Further to this, we need the ability to both analyse data, draw conclusions on specific indicators from this information, and then to adapt and improve processes with minimal-to-no human intervention to improve resiliency.

As such, I believe the question we need to apply to any future-facing decision making is how do we build buildings that can incorporate this technology, but also think on our behalf and be adaptable to future technologies that may arise in the coming decade?

What if we had a building that not only could think for itself, adapt its energy patterns, incorporate the most efficient maintenance programming and timing based on consumption, but not cost an insurmountable amount of money to adapt when newer technologies and designs come about leveraging the Internet of Things and cutting-edge design?

Our industry is implementing these ideas into masterplanning and new construction, but still have a long way to go. Essentially, we want to build in smart at the start so that we have more sustainable outcomes in the future.

We are getting to a point now where we are starting to identify what those initial points are. It’s just a matter of building the systems, the buildings, and the technology behind it that can think and make those decisions on the fly and in a split second.

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